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Paper Sizes and Why They are Important

When reaching out to a commercial printing company, one of the questions that is almost inevitable is to ask what you would like to be printed. Some may need business cards, stationary, directories, others might need trade show signage, presentation folders-really anything. Follow-up questions to advance your project further along in the printing process would be to understand the ‘size’ of the job. Not just how many you need-what size you actually want it to be. That's where the importance of understanding the what and why of paper sizes comes in handy. The decisions you make based on the size of your paper will create an impact on the cost and usability of the project you desire. It even impacts where you live! If you live in North America; you will follow different standards than in other parts of the world. Below are the standards used in the U.S., Canada and parts of Mexico.

Far across the great Atlantic ocean, the rest of the world follows a standard that is known as “ISO 216”. The International Organization of Standardization based this system around Germany’s “DIN 476” standard that originated in the 1920s. The ISO 216 system is defined by a series of “A”, “B” and “C” paper sizes. The series of paper sizes have a relationship between the height and width of each piece of paper; same proportions no matter how large or small it is. Below are the standards that ISO uses:

Who picks the standards? In the U.S., the American National Standards Institute, or ANSI, set the standards. For the rest of the world, the International Organization for Standardization, or ISO, sets the standards. There are many different countries that have institutes in which they are responsible for developing different paper standards; but the most common ones in the world are ANSI and ISO. What's the difference between ANSI and ISO? This is the most important part to remember. To start, ANSI are designed for imperial measurements; because North America does not utilize the metric system as their main form of measurement. Another difference between ANSI and ISO is the aspect ratio of the paper sizes. The “A” series for ISO always yields a 1:2 aspect ratio-the height and width relate to each other like a diagonal and side do on a square. Where ANSI has two different aspect ratios-half the paper is one ratio, and the other half is the second; making it hard to scale and weigh. Remember the statement you are going to be making with your hot-off-the-press-printed-materials. Knowing paper size is important for the person printing the work, the person paying for the work, and the person viewing the work.



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